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State senators to consider changing law on student scores, teacher evaluations

In an effort to qualify for federal 'Race to the Top' funds, the Senate's education committee plans to look at a 2006 law that bars use of test scores to evaluate teacher performance.

August 04, 2009|Jason Song

The state Senate will hold hearings later this month to determine if legislators need to change a California law governing the use of student test scores in order to qualify for competitive federal education reform dollars.

At issue is a 2006 law that bars the state from using student test score data for measuring teacher performance. That law is at the center of a dispute between the Obama administration, which is urging states to more effectively determine teacher quality, and state education leaders, who insist that federal officials are misinterpreting the law.

The argument has especially high stakes because states that bar the use of student data to evaluate instructors are ineligible for $4.35 billion in national "Race to the Top" funds, federal officials have said.

State Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), chairwoman of the Education Committee, said she plans to hold a hearing when the legislature reconvenes later this month to determine if any laws should be revised.

"We would be letting down an entire generation of students if we failed to act," she said.

Several states have already changed laws to comply with the Obama administration's guidelines.

Any changes to the law could kick off a contentious fight with teachers unions, which have resisted some of the reforms advocated by the Obama administration, including performance pay and data-driven teacher evaluations.

Romero said she believes that California is lagging behind the rest of the nation in qualifying for the funding.

Federal officials have compared the funding to the nation's effort to put a man on the moon and "we're not even in the rocket shuttle [building] mode yet," said Romero, who has declared her candidacy for the office of state superintendent of public instruction.

States are eligible for the funds if they meet several criterion. Since most districts are using federal education stimulus money to backfill schools' budget cuts, the Race to the Top money has become even more critical to districts.

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jason.song@latimes.com

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